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Strathnairn Heritage Association

Statistical Account Pt 1

First Statistical Account by Rev Alexander Gordon (Part 1)
title of extract - not to be published:
Statistical Account of Scotland - original (Published 1796)


Name, Extent, Surface, Lakes etc

These parishes lie nearly due E. and W. on both sides the river Nairn, extending in length 17 computed, or about 23 measured miles; their greatest breadth of ground, less or more, in cultivation, not exceeding 4 miles; their least scarcely 1½. The external appearance not very inviting, and must seem rather wild and romantic to a stranger; not only are the hills naked rocks, or covered with heath, without so much as a shrub almost to be seen among them; but even in the low grounds there are large tracks of peatmoss, or barren moor, incapable of cultivation; but which seem in most places, well adapted for planting forest-trees, such as fir, larix &c. This use of such grounds, has been attempted by Mr Macgillivray of Dunmaglass, Mr Mackintosh of Aberarder, and Mr Mackintosh of Farr, on their properties, with flattering success; and were the other properties to imitate the example, the prospect would be mended, and their estates acquire a great additional value.

About the church of Daviot, and for 2 miles above it, on both sides of the river, are a great many sand-hills, which appear evidently to have been formed, at some very remote period, by the current of contrary tides, by the flux and reflux of the sea, though they are, at least, 300 feet perpendicular height above its present level, or flood-mark, at Nairn or Inverness. Near the church of Dunlichity, and westward for some miles, the mountains and hills consist chiefly of solid rocks, exhibiting clear proofs, that earthquakes were formerly more frequent and terrible in this island, than either history or tradition hath conveyed to us, there being almost everywhere, at the foot of these mountains, innumerable fragments of enormous size, that have been, by these dreadful commotions, severed from their parent rocks. Among the mountains are several lochs, the principal of which are, Loch Ruthven, Loch Dundelchack and Loch Clachan; all of them, the first especially, abound with trout, of a most delicious taste and flavour, of the colour of salmon when dressed, and much admired. They are from 8 oz to 3 lb in weight, and bite so keenly with a western breeze, that a skilful angler may catch 4 or 5 dozen in the space of two hours. There is always 1, and sometimes 2 boats kept here, for the purpose of fishing; and gentlemen at the distance of several miles resort to it in the summer months for diversion. The lake is three miles long, but scarcely one over, where broadest: the other lakes do not furnish sport in such plenty; they have, however, a greater variety of fish, among which are pike and char, which are not in the former. Loch Dundelchack is twice as large as the above, and very deep. It is remarkable, that it never freezes in winter, but very readily in spring, by one night’s frost, when the weather is calm. Loch Clachan is a bason formed by the stream which issues from the last mentioned, at a short distance, and not much above a mile in circumference. Lime rock has been discovered a little below the Mains of Daviot in the bed, and by the sides of the river. A vast many metallic cubes of one-eighth to one-fourth of an inch or more, are found, and appear in this rock; they are of the colour of lead, and contain a great proportion of that metal.

Stipend, Poor, Church, Manse, &c.- The stipend, in 1781, was £52 6s. But in 1784, there was an augmentation of £25; no part whereof is victual, and the parishioners are not bound to perform any services to him.- The number of poor on the session-roll, is from 40 to 46 persons; among whom, communibis annis, there is the sum of £5 distributed once every year, which sum arises partly from the interest of £36 mortified money, partly from the collections made in the churches, and partly from delinquents, penalties. Out of the penalties, certain fees are paid to the session-clerk, and kirk officers, amounting to £2, or thereby, annually; but they have the dues of marriages and baptisms in addition, which are no inconsiderable perquisites.

The church of Dunlichity was rebuilt in 1759, and has had but one repair since, of £25, about 4 years ago. The church and manse of Daviot, in 1763 and 1764, but not so substantially, having had two repairs since, to the extent of between £80 and £90 each time, and now much in need of a third, at the distance only of 7 years from the last repair given them. It has happened to these buildings, what is often the fate of public buildings of this kind, when given to tradesmen who exhibit the lowest estimates, without enquiring sufficiently into their character and ability. For such underbidders, besides incapacity perhaps, must have temptations upon grounds less fair, to make insufficient work, and mar the undertaking. This remark is but too plainly verified, in the rebuilding of the manse and offices of Daviot, to the great loss of the heritors, and daily inconvenience and prejudice of the minister ever since.

Antiquities.- At the Mains of Daviot, a seat of the ancestors of the present Laird of Mackintosh, there were, till lately, the ruins of a fort or castle, built by the Earl of Crawfurd, in the beginning of the 15th century. This was, in those days, a place of great strength, being situated on the extremity of one of the sandhills already mentioned, had a dry ditch and drawbridge, which divided and fortified it from the level ground on the W., and a strong wall on the other sides, where the height and natural declivity of the hill added much to its security. It was a square building, and enclosed an area of 360 square yards; it had 4 circular towers, 1 in every corner, and containing each 3 stories, all vaulted; had secret passages in the middle of the wall, communicating with large vaulted rooms for the main guard at the principal entry.

This was a stately edifice, and commanded a very extensive prospect. The walls and towers, except a small breach at the main gate, were all entire about 44 years ago; and, had they suffered no injury besides natural decay, might have remained, for centuries yet to come, a specimen of the superior skill of our ancient operative masons. In 1743, a wadset was obtained of the lands of Daviot, where the castle stood and it is much to be regretted, that, in a century where stones are so plentiful as to be an incumbrance, this noble and only monument of antiquity should be partly destroyed for furnishing materials to a modern farm-house and offices. Still, however, a magnificent ruin remained; but it must shake the feelings of every person of taste to be told, that its total destruction was gradually accomplished, during a period of 40 years, for no other purpose than procuring the old lime and rubbish for the possessor’s dunghills.

Heritors, Population, Rent &c.- There are 10 heritors and proprietors belonging to these parishes, only 2 of whom now reside, and but 4 who have their family seats in it. The improvements, therefore, either for ornament or utility, have made but slow progress here. Yet Mr Mackintosh of Farr has happily succeeded in both. By enclosing, draining and planting, he has made his paternal estate both valuable and delightful, and it would be esteemed so in the best cultivated country. Colonel McGillivray projected improvements on the estate of Dunmaglass on a larger scale; but his premature death has occasioned delay in some considerable parts of the execution. This respectable family is now represented by a minor, nephew to the Colonel. According to Dr Webster's report, the number of souls in 1755 was 2176. By a survey of these united parishes, taken two years ago, they contain 400 families, including tradesmen and labourers who are married; and the whole number of persons was then 1697. Of these, 430 are of the Scotch Episcopal Communion; all the rest, except 2 Seceders, are of the Established Church. The Episcopalians have a meeting-house, where one of their clergy preaches once in 3 or 4 weeks, but not regularly, and administers the Sacrament 4 times a year, after the manner prescribed by the English ritual. They generally attend our public worship when they have none themselves and are personally acquainted with the minister. In no country are different religious persuasions attended with more mutual forbearance and charity than in this. Disputes about religion are scarcely ever known to exist here; and of our Episcopalians, it is but justice to say, that while they profess an opinion, that has been censored by some as illiberal, they are truly moderate.

Year Marriages Baptisms  
1784 14 32 Epis. children not included
1785 12 54 Ditto included
1786 15 44 Ditto 15
1787 10 45 Ditto not known
1788 8 33 Ditto ditto

Owing to an incident, no register of baptisms and marriages has been kept here since the year 1788. The numbers for that, and the 4 immediately preceding years, were as in the above sketch; observing only, that always some of the people, in the more distant parts of the parish, are in use of getting their children baptised by the neighbouring and more contiguous ministers, and seldom make a return of their names to our session-clerk.